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South Korea Moves to Regulate Cryptocurrency Holdings of Public Officials

In a bid to promote transparency and combat corruption, South Korea is considering an amendment to its Public Official Ethics Act that would require public officials to disclose their cryptocurrency holdings. The proposed amendment comes as the country grapples with an ongoing scandal involving a former lawmaker and his concealed crypto assets.

“It is necessary to expand the scope of assets that are subject to reporting to include virtual assets — this will help to ensure that public officials do not use their position to improperly accumulate wealth or conceal assets,” stated Lee Man-hee, a right-wing lawmaker who introduced the amendment.

Currently, South Korea’s public officials are only required to disclose assets such as cash, stocks, and bonds worth over 10 million Korean won (approximately US$7,572). Cryptocurrencies and other virtual assets are not subject to reporting. The proposed amendment seeks to change this by mandating the reporting of cryptocurrency holdings regardless of their value.

Moreover, lawmakers have suggested imposing a limit on the amount that officials involved in the crypto sector can invest. This measure aims to prevent conflicts of interest and potential abuse of power.

The impetus for this amendment stems from the scandal surrounding Kim Nam-kuk, a former lawmaker from the Democratic Party. He is currently under investigation for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and concealment of criminal proceeds related to his hidden crypto possessions and transactions.

South Korea has been actively working on developing a robust legal framework for cryptocurrencies since the Terra-Luna collapse last year. The government aims to enhance transparency and foster fair trading practices in the local market. With South Korean cryptocurrency investors occupying a significant portion of the global market, regulations regarding the crypto holdings of public officials are vital for maintaining integrity in the political sphere.

According to crypto data platform Xangle, the Korean won is the third most-used currency in Bitcoin transactions, following the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen. These statistics highlight the importance of effective regulation to prevent illicit activities, money laundering, and potential manipulation within the cryptocurrency space.

As South Korea continues to navigate the complexities of the crypto market, the proposed amendment to the Public Official Ethics Act represents a significant step toward ensuring accountability and fostering a trustworthy environment for both investors and the public.

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